Part of me wanted the United States to advance deep into soccer's World Cup. National pride, compelling personalities, history in the making.
But another part hoped for the U.S.'s demise, only to hush the soccer snobs who every four years proclaim this the time for soccer to take its rightful place alongside football, basketball and baseball in our sports culture and scold those of us who don't hold "the beautiful game" in proper regard.
Yes, the U.S.'s 2-1 loss to Ghana in the round of 16 Saturday drew the third-largest American television audience for a Cup game, according to USA Today. And yes, talk radio went stark raving mad when game officials robbed the Yanks, who've never captured the Cup, of a winning goal against Slovenia in group competition.
But let's not get carried away.
Just 16 years ago, when the U.S. hosted the Cup, the home team advanced to the quarterfinals against eventual champ Brazil and attracted a record domestic television audience for soccer.
Five years later, in 1999, the U.S. won the Women's World Cup, on home soil no less, in front of even more TV eyeballs. The final victory over China was absolutely electric, authored by superstar Mia Hamm and a teammate, Brandi Chastain, who ripped off her shirt after scoring the decisive penalty kick.
If those two teams couldn't elevate soccer …
Much like Olympic pursuits such as figure skating, track and skiing, soccer is a niche sport that occupies the national stage come World Cup time. And that's nothing to be ashamed of or lament.
Football, as the rest of the planet calls it, can be graceful, brutal and captivating. But far too often it's painfully dull and too accepting of ties.
In an interview last week with the Daily Press' Marty O'Brien, Jamestown High boys soccer coach Bobby O'Brien pegged the impact of the U.S. advancing to the elimination stage exactly right.
"I don't think it's going to make more kids want to play soccer," he said after the U.S. defeated Algeria to win its group for the first time since 1930, "because a lot already play soccer. Hopefully it causes the ones who do play soccer to want to come to practice and say, 'Hey, I want to play for the USA when I grow up. I want to be Landon Donovan.'
"Not, 'I want to play for Brazil and I want to be Ronaldinho.' Right now all the kids that like soccer, if you ask them what their favorite team is, they'll tell you Brazil, England, France, Spain, Italy and then maybe the United States.
"Maybe wanting to be a Landon Donovan or Jozy Altidore will make American kids work harder so they'll want to make the national team when they get older."
Donovan, Michael Bradley, son of U.S. coach Bob Bradley, and Tim Howard provided American highlights during this World Cup, a competition in which 2006 finalists Italy and France failed to survive group play, and in which the U.S. finished ahead of England in Group C.
But before we get too full of ourselves, consider this: Including stoppage time and overtime, the Americans played approximately 400 minutes of soccer at the World Cup. They led for three.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime